By Sabrina Selkis
There is a new breed of modern Dark Art artists, and London based Delirio Photography requires our undivided attention.
In the following email interview, he kindly discloses to us his love for the weird and macabre, his words as well as his work are undeniably worth a read and a check. This is one of the favourite interviews I’ve done. Enjoy!
What is the concept behind Delirio Photography?
Delirio photography is a dark, psychedelic daydream; a sinister reverie of beautiful horrors and exquisitely tempting fantasies; a twisted reality that binds pleasure to pain, exposing hidden desires buried deep within our souls.
Over-exaggerated surrealistic views of feelings and disturbed personalities, an hallucinogenic explosion of bright and earthy colours mixed with realistic twisted textures.
The visual impact of my images is expected to demonstrate natural beauty hidden in deep darkness. A macabre ritual, of provocative poses and daring expressions, mixed with: animal skulls; rusting and decaying textures; smoke; wind; fire; and water; Giving birth to realistic shapes, resembling psychedelic experiences. It’s all about bringing back a vision of psychedelic experiences I had in the early 90’s in London, mainly at the Slimelight, but also other venues like Gossips, clubs like Torture Garden, free Raves, and free festivals like the “You can’t Kill the Spirit” – Dartford Free festival.
I used to walk around and experience all these crazy visions, and get a “delirious” feeling when it all got mixed up with music, so it was always at the back of my mind how cool it would be if i could somehow share those visions with other people, bring my delirious onto others’ minds, and somehow let them feel a little of what i was feeling.
I spent years, probably more than 20, perfecting tools like Photoshop, and photography, DSLR cameras, studio equipment, and 3D graphics, just to attempt to express those visions. I think i might just be starting to get that across.
How do you define Dark Arts?
For me, Dark Arts is that dark irresistible enchanting place we all have within us. The beauty in darkness, the awkward and the insensitive. All of those tempting spaces within one’s imagination we are challenged to approach due to their unconventional nature, you want to do it, you want to see it, and you want to experience it, because it is “wrong”. However it liberates the spirit within, it brings freedom whilst experiencing the unknown. Just like pleasure in pain.
Dark Arts have opened a gate to a fictitious Hell, and created many figurative views of what we have been fantasizing about for so long, all the forbidden fruits have flourished into beautiful alter ego and realities, expressing an apocalyptic vision, which is both repulsive, yet highly attractive and sometimes sexy.
I can feel a new wave of Illusionism on a different time set, but pretty much a very similar movement, taking upon themselves to express art in very unconventional ways to the status quo. Of course the freedom of expression we have these days allows a Dark Artist to publish concepts way more intriguing and provocative than our counterpart Illusionists. I don’t think there is a comparable life threat and political pressure, to what they experienced, but we do get censored by the mainstream publication channels like Facebook, and Instagram, which is kind of archaic, but ultimately, they are only fabricating new forbidden fruits.
You have been a music photographer for many years, why the change to portrait photography?
I love music, most of my life has been driven by my love of music, and everything related to it, the sound, the vibes, the lyrical, the fashion, and obviously the art that accompanies it.
Doing music photography was a bit of a stepping stone to an end-goal I am getting closer and closer to. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn how to operate a camera under some serious low light conditions, and to take advantage of small windows of opportunity to capture brilliant, yet extreme expressions from musicians midst performances. Sometimes almost impossible, that’s where i gained some extra experience with digital imagery post production.
I always wanted to do what I am doing now, kept looking at people in the audience, and thinking – ‘wow, don’t these people look amazing’. Would be such a shame to loose that in time, I would love to capture that vibe and make it immortal. Often i would bother people in the audience and sometimes I was lucky enough to have the courage and strength to approach them and ask to photograph them. But I always felt slightly uncomfortable, and also felt people were just out for a good night watching their favourite bands, and often were not vain enough to pose amongst a crowd. So i set myself a challenge to buy some studio equipment, and invite people for some studio time.
I still do live photography every now and then, and I will continue doing it for the adrenaline rush, time and opportunity permitting. It can be very exciting to get close to some of your heroes while they are doing their thing on stage, sometimes meeting them too, and even become friends. One thing I don’t miss is the post production, I could take 1500 photos in 15 minutes at a show, and come home spend two weeks going through the shots and come up with 5 good shots, after some serious post production.
With live music photography, your camera settings are adjusted to low light, high speed shutter, and low quality image, so you can see why i much rather have a studio session where my camera settings are exactly the opposite, and i get very high quality images i can work with, and produce the large high quality photographic prints you see at my exhibitions.
Let’s talk about your creation process , who are your models? How do you select them?
I feel privileged to have chosen an art genre which allows me to select a broad variety of models, from age to gender, to all shapes and sizes. It all fits the criteria, as long as the model is willing to play along and explore the creative experience.
I am very proud to have come this far with models who are not professional models. Most of the time I photograph people who have never modelled before. Sometimes I do get the odd person who frequently models for other photographers, but hardly ever as a living career. As long as it doesn’t defy the purpose of capturing people’s real alter egos it’s all good. Most of the time I capture the charismatic in the alternative scene, people who might look quite conventional at their day jobs, but become characters they identify with socially, and sometimes might even go a bit more extreme when attending special events like Fetish Clubs or other type of Clubs targeted at that kind of audience.
There is only one precondition – the model must be willingly photographed. It’s likely I have met the model before around some of the most prestigious decadent joints of our beloved London Town. I will likely choose those I can see have a hidden desire to play, and get some of that naughtiness out, do something different, and get vain where you have a perfectly good excuse to do so. Become a Death Princess, a Black Magic Queen, or a Gore King – as long as you have a good time I likely will too.
I do get people contacting me to participate in my photoshoots via Instagram and Facebook, but they are often far from London or the UK where I live and do my photoshoots. Some have travelled long journeys to do photoshoots with me which I am really thankful for.
When you start a photoshoot, do you have a clear idea of the final product or do you go along with the mood of the day?
Not very often, the creative process is divided in two stages, the photoshoot, and then the digital art that will produce the final artwork. When i spend time in the studio with models, we explore makeup and wardrobe, with different backdrops and lighting. Go through numerous poses and expressions, gradually working on the model’s confidence.
Like I said earlier most of my models have never modelled before, so the challenge at this stage is to get their alter egos out to play. Sometimes I have a vague idea what I would like to do, and ask for certain poses, or expressions, but that’s almost as far as the planning goes. I would like to think of it as a spontaneous creative experience. Often there is loud music and drinks, setting a nice atmosphere with enough privacy to allow models to express themselves without feeling pressured. I often have people helping out or just assisting for moral support during the shoots, which can take the burden of having to shift focus from shooting to wardrobe and makeup. Sometimes my models and I go through some reference material to inspire what wardrobe they bring along to the shoots, and the poses we plan to experiment with. Funny how it always turns out so different from what we initially discussed, but that’s how i like to do things.
You use very interesting accessories, are there any favourites most of your models want to use?
Well, everyone loves a good old go at the gas mask, I have a few of them, but they tend to ruin makeup and hide away all the hard work gone into the hair, so we usually try them at the end. I have a lot of fetish props at hand so those seem to be on request a lot, I would be lying if I said ropes and handcuffs don’t wake some of my models’ curiosity. However it’s all a bit subjective because everyone is different and sometimes some photoshoots are more private than others.
Any funny anecdotes happening during a shoot?
Well, there were a few moments, but I think the funniest was when I was still doing photoshoots from home, and someone gave the model a lift to the shoot. This was a male model with really heavy makeup on, and as the photoshoot took place, his friend decided to go for a walk in the woods nearby, and somehow got lost. I couldn’t wait any further for his friend, as it was getting late, and had to attend a gig that evening. So I had no choice but to kick everybody out of the house as I left, so my model was still covered in makeup, and appropriately dressed for a Dark Arts photoshoot. He also brought loads of bags and wardrobe props, which created a pretty chaotic scene on my front porch, as well as terrifying a load of children and their parents leaving a birthday party taking place next door.
I watched in amusement as I walked away – confirming all my neighbours’ suspicions, something in that house isn’t quite right.
Regarding the editing of the photo, how does it work? Do you do a few versions of a portrait?
I gather as much material as I can in stage one – the photoshoot. This leaves me with a huge library of images I can use any time i feel like sticking my head in that folder.
Stage two, is the creative process which transforms the original images to what you’ll eventually see published. There will be tones of variations of the same pose, and there will also be one that will catch my attention.
All I need is some inspiration, which tends to appear when i am at my most anxious moments. I suffer from anxiety, and I have found inner peace in the past by writing software, which has given me a great career, but is not as visually appealing in its creativity as photography.
It kind of works like a meditation session, I pick up the original image that caught my attention, and start playing with it, adding textures and distorting some of my favourite rusty, liquid, and smoke images I have in my library.
This process can take up to two months, depending on how effective the therapy is, if i feel better, I might not visit the image again for a week, otherwise I will be working on it all through the night, and every free moment, to help me disconnect from the outside world.
It’s a very spontaneous process again. I tried to draw a plan for some of the images and set a final target shape, and it always ends up as something different. There is a process involved in searching and acquiring textures, making them blend using an endless catalogue of techniques, which will eventually evolve into the final outcome. It’s challenging and liberating at the same time.
During this process of experimentation loads of ideas are tried, and saturated, so I tend to get to a point when I start taking out bits and pieces I added to the image, and when I can’t take anything else out, or put anything back in, then the image is ready for publication. Using photoshop as my main post production tool, helps being able to switch groups of layers on and off, adjust colours and all sorts of digital imagery goodness I am so lucky to have at my disposal. Of course nothing is set in stone with me. One of my favourite images “Tears In Rain” – inspired by the Sci Fi classic “Blade Runner”; Took approximately 45 minutes to produce the makeup, and only 15 minutes from the moment it was taken to being published. Too good of a shot to keep my hands off while the model was preparing for the next outfit.
This is not your first exhibition event , where did people see your artwork before?
Even though my main target is to print large photographic prints, developed by the same process as your traditional photo prints, and exhibit them in galleries/art exhibitions, it wasn’t until last year that I managed to start exhibiting.
My fusion tends to confuse the hell out of curators, but I can sense a change. The curators at Flux are a great example of that change, welcoming and embracing many forms of media fusion. Which is a great step forward in modern art.
I exhibited at a very special event last year in Whitby, the Bram Stoker’s International Film Festival – Dark Arts, organised by Decadent Drawing – such a magical place to debut, joining the 125th year anniversary celebration of Bram Stalker’s Dracula.
Only a few weeks later i exhibited on Halloween night at “Don’t Look Now”, organised by Sweet Art. We even got a real exorcism performed outside the gallery by some local church goers, to help cleanse all that evilness going on. Don’t think it worked on me, but it was kind of entertaining.
Then my work was exhibited at the 12 Bar in Holloway Road, for “The Rite”, organised by Jo Menato. To my surprise the management asked me to keep the images there for the foreseeable future after the exhibition, which gave Delirio Photography great exposure.
Since then my personal life has been an emotional rollercoaster and took me almost a year to find the strength and time to organize a new exhibition, so here i am at Flux 2016, which is such a great celebration of contemporary art, and clearly reflects the diversity in styles, techniques, and media thriving through the art world at present.
I have already another exhibition planned in London at the OXO Tower Warf, for Art Maze 2016 – “Dare to explore our haunting maze of art”, organised by Exhibit Here. It will take place between 14 and 18 December 2016, and i am expecting it to be a great event, so please keep these dates on your calendar, and come see and support my work. FREE Admission.
How do you choose your favourite portraits to exhibit ? What’s the most important thing you are looking forward to sharing with your audience?
Well, its a bit of a mix, sometimes exhibition applications take months to process, so I usually submit a selection of my favourites, and my audience’s favourites. I can take statistics from Instagram and Facebook, to get an idea of what people would generally like to see. Often there are themes associated with exhibitions, so I tend to adjust my selection to the theme too.
Finally I discuss with the curators and come up with the final selection, depending on the space available to exhibit. Sometimes I submit 3 images for selection, and the curators choose one, sometimes I submit 3 and end up exhibiting 9.
The most important thing for me is to showcase the image at it’s best quality, which is as a large photographic print. There is a lot of detail that gets lost in a computer, or hand-held screen, and given I currently shoot at 50 megapixels, there is a hell of a lot of detail to display. Some of which i wasn’t even able to appreciate until the images were printed large.
The other important part is broadening my audience. Even though we have the power of social media, to help us reach new audiences, it’s all back to the analogue vs digital conversation. We have loads of meaningless virtual relationship, which aren’t comparable with real world relationships. So when you get to meet people whilst they are appreciating your work and guide them to the thinking behind the images and how it all got put together, is much more meaningful than one like on Instagram. Exhibitions provide a more human interaction between the visitors and the artist, and as a bonus new audiences get exposed to your work, which helps it gain traction, and open doors for new adventures.
In your opinion, would Hell be filled with all those Demons you are rendering?
If hell existed, i think it would be a lot sexier than that, hahah!
In my psychedelic fictitious hell however, that darker place of my imagination, I can see them lingering through, enchanting us with what appears repulsive at first glance. That temptation is a sin, is the right in the wrong, and the damnation of our souls.
A million pleasures dripping in lust for imperfection, wickedness, horror, and blood.
A primal screen for ecstasy, the sex moans straight out of purgatory, the punishing ritual that will make your mouth water. The smell of decay and rusty metal, and the dust that mixes with your sweaty skin – that hell? YES!
What is next for Delirio Photography?
Well, more of the same, a constant battle to better the previous image published, reach new audiences, find new opportunities to work with the awesomeness of the creative alternative folk out there. Always trying to come up with innovative ideas, without falling into monotony, but at the same time maintain a level of consistency, which will persist the unique identity and style i built.
I am keen to start exhibiting outside the UK soon, have been thinking about Tokyo, but its all looking a bit too expensive, so probably i will start looking into Europe, and the US.
More photoshoots in the new year, have a few people on the waiting list to get photoshoots with me, and i’ll expect a few more before i start organising my next photoshoot season.
Anything else you would like to add?
Please get in touch, If you fancy getting involved, as a model, stylist, makeup artist, or generally to contribute on the creative process. If you design clothes, or have great ideas for props, or anything along the lines of what i do, let me know, because i love people to get involved and to be part of this project.
If a galleries or curators think my stuff is suitable for their exhibitions or spaces, get in contact with me via my FB page or Instagram.
Finally, feed back is always welcome. A lot of work goes into producing and creating these images, it’s always important for people to provide some feedback, even if is with just a like or a comment on social media. To us artists means you are listening, and our effort is not in vain.
Instagram – @deliriophotography
Facebook – Delirio Photography
Twitter – @deliriophoto
Photo courtesy of Loredana Denicola